Teas Me

Lei ChicYou have very specific tastes.
You like them strong, dark, exotic, and not-so-sweet.

Things were hot and steamy with your recent find for months. Now you’re so bored, you’re tempted to bag it.

So you're on the hunt for something that's more your cup of tea – literally.

Fortunately, there is a way to brew-it-yourself.

Black, oolong, green, and white teas all come from the Camellia Sinensis plant and are only distinguished by the amount of processing. We turned to Big Island tea grower and a founding member of the Hawaii Tea Society, Eva Lee, for directions for a white tea, which requires the least amount of processing; all you need is a place for a plant, and an oven or toaster oven.

1 – Purchase a tea plant through the Tea Society. Water it well, keeping the soil damp at all times and prune back the top branch frequently to encourage more shoots. If your plant is inside in air conditioning, keep a spray bottle nearby to keep it from drying out.

Lei Chic2 – You will need to wait several years for the plant to produce the sprigs you use for tea. When new shoots come out, wait until there are five leaves then pick just the newest two or three and the bud. Try not to bruise or crush them.

3 – Wilt them in the sun for 30-40 minutes in a slightly shady area, turning them so they dry evenly.


Pictures courtesy Tea Hawaii & Company

4 –Set your oven or toaster oven to the lowest setting, below 100 degrees. Spread the leaves out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake, checking every 10 minutes until your tea is dry all the way through. You can tell by chewing the leaves, they should be crunchy without any damp spots.

5 – Keep the leaves in an airtight bag or container in a cool, dark, dry place.

When you brew your tea, let the leaves steep for five minutes. Any longer, and it could become bitter.

The Hawaii Tea Society posts articles on everything from tea plant care, to processing black and green teas on its website. Click here to take a look or e-mail Lee at teahawaii@gmail.com.